Pumpkin Salted Caramel Layer Cake
In the mood for a show-stopping fall dessert? This moist pumpkin layer cake is all of that and more. This is the best pumpkin cake I have ever made and I hope you try it too. The cake itself is full of pumpkin flavor, has the perfect texture, and is the perfect treat for pumpkin season.
This cake is make even more special by the frosting. It just has 2 ingredients, Caramel sauce and cream cheese, and together they make the most luxurious and silky frosting I can’t get enough of. I recommend my homemade salted caramel sauce and you can make it in advance to speed up the cake assembly process.
Ingredients needed for Pumpkin Layer Cake:
- All purpose flour
- Ground ginger
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Ground clovess
- Brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- Vegetable oil
- Pumpkin puree
- Caramel Sauce
- Cream Cheese
Supplies needed for Pumpkin Layer Cake:
- 6 inch cake pans
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment or electric mixer
- Large bowl
- Wire rack
- Parchment paper for lining pans
- Offset spatula for frosting
Make frosting first as it needs time to chill. Add warm caramel sauce to the bowl of a mixer and add the cream cheese one cube at a time until a silky and golden Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting has formed. Cool the frosting while you make the cake.
Combine dry ingredients into a medium bowl and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or a large bowl with a stand mixer- combine the brown sugar, eggs, oil and pumpkin purée. Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk until a smooth batter forms.
Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans and bake until cake tester comes back clean. Invert cakes and let them cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Add an even layer of frosting to each later, a thin layer around the outside of the cake and dollop the remaining frosting onto the top of the cake. Top with caramel sauce and enjoy!
Can I sub pumpkin pie spice for the individual spices listed?
Yes. I would sub 3.5 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice.
Can I sub pumpkin pie filling for pumpkin puree?
I don’t recommend it.
Can I bake this Pumpkin Cake recipe in advance and freeze it until I’m ready to frost?
Yep! This is one of my favorite methods to work ahead. Cool each cake layer and wrap it in plastic wrap. Place wrapped layers in a freezer bag and you and freeze them for up to a month.
I don’t want to make a layer cake- can I make this in a different pan?
Yes. You can make this in a 9×13 baking dish, 8 or 9 inch round pans or even a bundt cake. This recipe will also make 24 pumpkin cupcakes. Just note that when you change up the pans, baking times will vary. Always start with less time than you think and check often for doneness by inserting a skewer or knife into the center of the cakes.
How can I make my cake layers even:
Use a serrated knife to level domed tops or uneven layers, but my favorite method is to whip out my kitchen scale and weigh each layer before baking.
Does this frosting need powdered sugar?
The caramel sauce adds sweetness and when the frosting firms up in the fridge it’s the perfect consistency. I don’t often make frosting without powdered sugar but this one just works! If you taste your frosting and it isn’t as sweet as you’d like, add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time until it has reached your desired sweetness.
Other frosting options:
This cake would also be amazing with Brown Butter Frosting, Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting or Maple Cream Cheese frosting.
Other favorite pumpkin recipes: Caramel Glazed Pumpkin Scones, Brown Sugar Pumpkin Pie, Easy One Bowl Pumpkin Bread,
This would also be great as a bundt cake with the frosting on top, similarly to what I did in the Pumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter icing. (It’s actually the same cake recipe!)
Pumpkin Layer Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
A perfectly textured pumpkin cake with a cream cheese and salted caramel frosting: perfection!
- 1 cup of salted caramel sauce (still hot)
- 1 pound cream cheese, cut into 2-inch cubes (2 8 oz blocks)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (optional, see note)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1¼ cups light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
- ½ cup whole milk
- Extra salted caramel sauce for drizzling (optional)
- Transfer hot caramel to a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat at low speed until the caramel cools slightly and comes together, about 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on, beat in the cream cheese, 1 cube at a time and beating well between additions, until silky.
- Taste the frosing. If you'd like to add additional sweetness see note below *
- Transfer the frosting to a bowl and refrigerate until very firm. (this took about 90 minutes in the freezer for me, but you can also chill in the fridge for several hours.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves.
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and eggs at medium-high speed until frothy and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the oil, then the pumpkin puree. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk in 3 batches, starting and ending with the flour, mixing until just combined. (Don't overmix!)
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans.*
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 350F , until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes, then invert them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake plate and layer with the frosting and cake. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce. Repeat with all 3 layers.
Re: the frosting and sweetness. I have always found this frosting to be perfectly sweet, but some readers have commented it's not sweet enough for them. Taste it and if you'd like, add a little powdered sugar. I'd start with 1/2 cup and go from there.
*I chose to weigh my pans before baking to make sure they were all filled equally, but this is optional!
One batch of my Salted Caramel Sauce should be enough for the frosting and a little extra to drizzle on top!
I’m basically dying to have this in front of me right now. THE THINGS YOU DO TO ME!
Oh lord…two of my favorite things: pumpkin and caramel (salted or not). Maybe my brother would like it for his BD just after Thanksgiving. Or I could just surprise him!
A couple questions. Does the cake need to be refrigerated after the frosting initially sets?
Is the brown sugar packed?
I currently have the cake in the oven,plan on frosting in the morning. Had some issues with the caramel sticking to the whisk but got it worked out. Both the frosting and the cake batter are wonderful. My next time, and there will be a next time, I will weigh ingredients.
Thanks for a wonderfully different pumpkin dessert.
Hello! Yes- I’d chill it all until 20 minute before serving so the cream cheese frosting can set! Glad the caramel worked out- it can be tricky the first time but once you get the hang of it, it’s great!
I want to make a couple of these for a family gathering. Does the cake freeze well? So I can make it a few days ahead?
Thank you! Beautiful cake! Dying to enjoy a slice!
The cake would freeze beautifully. I suggest baking all the layers, wrapping each one in plastic, and freezing individually. Then make your frosting and store in the fridge. Take it out to room temp to soften before you frost the cake.
The only thing I would do differently is add toasted pecans… or walnuts…probably pecans.
Can you make these into cupcakes with the caramel stuffed in the middle?
Can you use pumpkin pie spice in place of the individual spices? If so how much?
Would this work if I substituted a gluten-free flour mix in place of the all-purpose flour?
My daughter is gluten-free and I buy the Namaste all-purpose gluten free flour at costco.It has worked very well in cakes for me. My cake is baking as we speak. It is rising! (something I always worry about) will let you know if there is something that does not come out right. So far so good! The batter and frosting were delicious !
also FYI. I was using 3 — 8 inch pans and I just took my cakes out at 28 minutes. My toothpick came out clean and they were pulling away from the edges. Smells great!
Did you have to increase the amount of cake batter when using 3 8inch cake pans. I’m thinking it would turn out pretty flat if not??
No you really don’t. It ends up working out!
and.. . .this recipe is Fantastic! My family said they no longer want pumpkin pie, they want this recipe instead! My husband is allergic to dairy, so I used Daiya cream cheese substitute and that came out well too!
Thank you for this recipe!! New family favorite!
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of frosting for my 9 inch cakes. What else could I fill it with?
Hmm. I had plenty of frosting. Could you make another half batch?
What should I do if the salted caramel cream cheese frosting tastes a little bitter?
Hmm. Did you taste the caramel before adding it?
Hi, how do you make Your carmel sauce ??
Hi Mindi! I have a post called “How to Make Caramel Sauce” that outlines it!
Is the frosting supposed to be sweet? Mine seems more salty and not enough sweetness.. the cake is the best! Just wondering if I got the frosting right?
Hi, can we sub the caramel with jarred sauce? Will it still blend with the cream cheese? Of course, I’ll add the flaky salt!
Sadly, this cake wasn’t what I hoped. I needed a bit more warning about what it ended up being. Super simple to make. Cake is quite dense and pudding-y. Not too sweet. The frosting needed to be sweeter. The caramel and cream cheese was almost bitter. Overall this cake was lovable and did well as a decadent breakfast cake.
Mine is in the oven right now… I had to add a lot of powdered sugar to my frosting because it was not sweet at all, even with store bought caramel (caramel should be similarly sweet across the board right?) the cake batter tastes rather salty and not sweet the instructions were confusing because my egg and brown sugar mixture was liquid froth… not fluffy. Hoping it turns out when it comes together for my family’s thanksgiving dinner tomorrow!
Thanks for the feedback on the frosting. I always found it plenty sweet but I am going to add a note about adding powdered sugar to the frosting if desired.
As for the cake- I have made it so many times and I always find the taste and texture to be amazing so I hope you like it!
I wanted to provide an update- I had some of the cake dome scraps with the frosting last night and it actually works really well together! My cake was more dense than the typical box mix cakes or cakes with cake flour, but it was a pleasant texture and very moist. Kind of the sweetness and texture of a very moist pumpkin bread. The less sweet cake and frosting may be other’s desire- I just was raised on box mix cakes which are very sweet. The amount of straight caramel you put on top can also up the sweetness and bring a balance to the product overall. I’d make this again!
How long would you recommend baking two 9 inch pans?
20-25 minutes or so.
When the salted caramel is made ahead of time will you still be able to make the frosting or does the caramel have to be warm.
If you make it ahead of time I recommend letting it come to room temperature before adding it to the frosting
I feel like I’m missing part of the recipe. What is the oven temp?
Sorry about that! Let me double check the recipe and make sure it’s all there.
Ok- everything is there- it just may be confusing since you start with the frosting since it needs to chill for a bit.
It was very good turned out really well. Brought it to a brunch, it was very popular. One think that did not work was making the caramel. Throughout the first little bit, and then worked with the sugar on low heat. Worked so much better. That’s all you need! I also found that I couldn’t layer the frosting well as it took so long to set but still complimented the cake well
Hi! I am so excited to make this cake! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I wondered, do I need to use a cake Dowell to ensure the layers don’t slide off?
Hi! I have never used a cake dowel and haven’t found it necessary for this recipe. If you have one and want the extra stability though I certainly don’t think it would hurt!
Thank you so much! ☺️
Where is the recipe for the homemade salted Carmel sauce that you recommend?
You show 4 – 6” cakes. Does this recipes make one cake with 4 layers and feed 8-12 people? That would be very small pieces for 12 people!
Hi! I tagged the Caramel recipe I few times in the post but here it is again. https://www.thebakerchick.com/salted-caramel-sauce-how-to/
I use 6 inch cake pans and trust me this is at least 10 servings, the slices are tall and rich. If you want super thick slices I’d say 8 servings is accurate!
I love the idea for this cake. The cake itself is good, but a little dense. The frosting could be sweeter, and I wonder if you could use less cream cheese. I had quite a bit left over for a 4 layer 6″ cake. Your caramel sauce is good, but not easy for a beginner, which Im not but I ended up making two batches to see if I could get a better result. I have induction so getting the right heat was important and the time it takes to melt the sugar. First time is got browner and more bitter, second time was perfect. Higher heat to melt faster and swirl to prevent burning. Overall good cake just not sweet as one might expect from a cake
Thanks for your feedback! I think if you want a sweeter cake an extra drizzle of caramel sauce would take care of that nicely! Thanks for the feedback on using an induction stove too.
I’m curious, why do we need to put the frosting mixture in the fridge until it is very firm? Doesn’t that make it hard to spread? I have it in the fridge firming up now, but was curious. Thanks so much!
Hi! You don’t want it so firm that it’s unable to be spread, but alternately I’d you try to fill your cake with frosting that doesn’t have any structure it won’t decorate easily. So chill until firm enough to spread, but not rock hard! :)
Not having the cake or frosting too sweet is a plus for me, the cake was moist, which I like. I had problems with the caramel frosting. I used an induction stove and I am not a caramel pro. When the caramel recipe tasted burnt, I remade the caramel the more traditional way. When making this again I’ll cream the cream cheese first, as adding the cream cheese in chunks to the caramel left the frosting lumpy, I must have beaten it for 30 minutes to no avail. I used two eight-inch cake pans without a hitch and baked them for about 30-35 minutes. I pressed chopped candied pecans on the sides of the cake and topped the cake with meringue mushrooms.
Thanks for your wonderful feedback. Your cake sounds beautiful.